The property was originally called "Maudlands", an enormous three storey Italianate mansion built in 1882 and from what records I have seen changed hands repeatedly in it's first ten years before being divided up into flats before World War 1.
At both the front and the back of the property two small blocks of Arts and Crafts style flats were erected in around 1915, and since they are also by a noted local Jewish architect (who also designed the Synagogue on Alma Road) they can't be torn down. The flats seem, from the outside, to have many intact original features but I can only see the intricately molded plaster ceilings.
After realising this morning that the doors had been violently kicked in on the back of the boarded up and abandoned mansion, I had 45 minutes to kill, and a strong urge to see inside....
I climbed the short side fence and entered via the 2nd floor fire escape at the back, where there was plenty of light. The place had been vandalized but wasn't as filthy as I had imagined. It has only been boarded up for three years and had been sub-divided into flatettes many years ago. Only recently I was at someone's house and a painting hanging in their living room had been painted by someone who lived in the house a few years ago, so I imagine there were a few artists there and it would have been perfect with great light and ambience.
Fireplaces had been ripped from walls and light fittings ripped out. Forgive the blurriness of some of my pictures as I didn't know if I needed to use the fash, and I didn't know if there was anyone in the building. Since the doors were open anybody could have been lurking inside.
A huge grand staircase is in the centre of the building, in remarkably good condition.
Illuminating the staircase is this original and very grand stained glass window with two handpainted Victorian ladies looking around forlornly at their decrepit surroundings. I am amazed that this window is intact, with only one lady having a crack through her. The window can really only be seen from the inside as from the outside it is partially obscured by the kitchenettes and fire escapes tacked haphazardly onto the back of the building. This window dates from 1882 when the house was built as a grand single residence. Stained glass panels like these that I have seen in antique shops sell for a great deal of money.
There is a surprising amount of light. The staircase and everything looks secure as do the floors but I'm still not sure if there's anyone in the building. It is very quiet. I venture up to the third floor...
Nothng and no-one around, but I don't feel alone, I feel I am being watched. I don't know what I expect to find or why I've come alone, I'm not normally likely to do this kind of thing on my own. I venture down to explore the second floor again.
It's then I realize that the very top of the stained glass panels is what I can see from the outside of the building. On the second floor it is gloomier, but there is no smell of damp and there is a lot of air in the place. This is a remarkably solid house which would have been warm in winter and cool in Summer.
I then decide to descend to the ground floor. It is darker as all of the ground floor windows are boarded up and the light from the huge stained glass windows doesn't reach everywhere, especially into the dark rooms I am about to enter....
The origanl entrance hall has many of it's surviving tiles from the 1880's.
At this stage I feel more and more as if I'm being watched and even as I type this I have chills running up my back. I feel distinctly unwelcome and as if the entire building is holding it's breath, it is used to intruders and vandals and it is waiting silently for me to leave, but I have no intention of hurting it.
There is a series of large rooms which were probably sitting or dining rooms, and they have floor length windows which are boarded up from the outside. They have obviously, from the wallpapers and old heaters, been divided up in the late 60's. There are strange rooms behind which may have been original kitchens but are now dilapidated bathrooms and kitchenette. It is very creepy where I am and I am listening intently for any sound but nothing stirs. I think that I have about 20 minutes to get my train and my camera battery is low, and I am not quite scared but there is just the feeling of immense sadness in this house, as if nobody ever had any luck here. It feels as if the house is waiting for someone to to return who isn't coming.
I head back to the second floor and take a peek at the kitchenette and bathroom that every flat seems to have tacked onto it like a tumour. They can't have been easy to manouever around in. I see that there may be what looks like drug paraphernalia lying around, and my biggest concern was that I may rouse a sleeping junkie given the ferocity with which the back door has been torn off. I know there was ahomeless guy sheltering in the stables a while back because I could hear him wailing and cursing.
This shows how the stained glass is hidden from the outside almost completely.
I wonder what the plans are for this place and if she will ever gaze down upon a happy scene again. It astounds me that the building has been left to rot like this.
I head back out into the street where I see that no adventure I have shall ever take place without the appearance of a magical white cat to greet me, like Alice's white rabbit.
I feel as if I have gazed through the looking glass, down the rabbit hole at the past, and I head back to reality and to my waiting train and to my day back in this century and not the one that forlorn lady looks back on....